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Full text of "Kacike Journal"

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the author. The citation 
information for the original article is: 

Seidemann, Ryan M. 2001. The Bahamian Problem in Florida Archaeology: 
Oceanographic Perspectives on the Issue of Pre-Columbian Contact. The Florida 
Anthropologist, 54(l):4-23. 

The pagination from the original source has been preserved below. 

The Bahamian Problem in Florida Archaeology: 
Oceanographic Perspectives on the Issue of Pre- 
Columbian Contact 

Ryan M. Seidemann 
Introduction 

The origins and relationships of the prehistoric inhabitants of the Bahamas and those of 
the southeastern United States have been the subject of much debate for over a hundred 
years. This study examines the oceanographic implications of the Florida Current on 
prehistoric contact between these two regions The paper also considers previously 
published oceanographic literature in conjunction with the current anthropological 
evidence from the Caribbean and the south- eastern United States, and inferences for 
ocean voyaging from the Pacific to suggest probable areas that may yield evidence of 
contact. 

Historic accounts have alluded to the fact that the Lucayan inhabitants of the prehistoric 
Bahamas were aware of land to the northwest (i.e., Florida), but this popular conception 
may have originated from Spanish misinterpretations or misrepresentations as had 
occurred concerning the Fountain of Youth, typically associated with Ponce de Leon. 
Peck (1992; 1993) casts significant doubt on the motivations of this myth for Spanish 
explorations which led to the discovery of the Florida mainland. No mention of the 
Fountain of Youth exists in Ponce de Leon's charter for the exploration of Birnini 
(Peck 1992: 115). Descriptions of land to the north of the Bahamas by the time of the 
Spanish conquest of Florida may have been the result of historic movements of native 
groups fleeing the Spanish or some of the unsanctioned voyages of Spanish exploration 
(Milanichl995: 107). Weber (1992) suggests that this myth was of ancient European 
origin rather than Caribbean, casting doubt on the native populations' knowledge of 
Florida as related in the popular Fountain of Youth myths (eg. Weddle 1985). Due to the 
problematic nature of the Fountain of Youth myth (outlined in Arana 1965; Peck 1992, 
1993: Weber 1992) this piece of popular folklore should riot be considered as 
incontrovertible evidence that the Lucayan Tamos (the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the 
Bahamas) were knowledgeable about the Florida mainland during prehistoric times. 



Watters(1982: 2) argues for the importance of archaeologists to be cognizant of the 
dynamic ocean processes that have affected past human populations. Although earlier 
studies (Cruxent and Rouse 1969; Evans and Meggars 1976; Sleight 1965) emphasized 
the importance of the oceanography and climatology of the Caribbean in understanding 
prehistoric contact, no detailed examination of these factors, as yet, has been undertaken. 
This study reviews oceanographic data and underscores the necessity for anthropologists 
to consider oceanographic research when interpreting movements of past peoples in an 
insular environment. 

This paper attempts to fill the gap in the research of the contact issue by taking a 
"seaward': approach to the late prehistoric record of the Bahamas, as suggested by 
Watters (1981. 1982) and Watters and Rouse (1989) Much of the decision to focus this 
paper on Bahamas-to-Florida contact and not Florida-to-Bahamas contact is based on this 
"seaward perspective of Watters' (1982), which basically suggests that the ocean-focused 
Lucayans instead of the riverine-focused Florida Indians would have been more likely to 
initiate contact. The Florida Indians might have seen the ocean as a barrier rather than a 
highway. In contrast, the Lucayans, or any ocean-going inhabitants of the insular 
Caribbean, would not likely have seen the vast expanses of the ocean as a barrier, but 
rather as a highway upon which they transported their trade goods from one island to the 
next (much as the modem Bahamians do). The expanse of the ocean to the northwest of 
the Bahamas likely appeared the same to the Lucayans as the large ocean gaps between 
their own islands. In addition to the perceived barrier of the open ocean, the Florida 
Current, apart of the Gulf Stream, probably constituted a true barrier as it flowed in a 
northeasterly direction between Florida and the Bahamas. Additionally, the prehistoric 
inhabitants of the Bahamian archipelago were a highly mobile seafaring group, 
establishing over-water trading networks throughout the islands (Watters 1997). The 
rapid dispersal of peoples throughout the whole of the West Indies begs the question, 

"Why stop at the northernmost Bahamian islands?" Following the suggestions of Watters 
(1982). I have incorporated the available scholarship on the prehistoric voyaging and 
migrations in the Pacific. Unlike the archaeological record of the Bahamas, the Pacific 
offers a long chronology from which to interpret motivations for migrations from one 
island to the next, archaeological evidence for migrations, and navigational techniques. 

Previous Research 

The past century yielded a vast amount of scientific and avocational theorizing on the 
origins and migrations of the prehistoric inhabitants of the Caribbean (see Table 1 which 
provides the essential information regarding these publications). Many of the scholars 
changed their opinions on the contact issue over time as more information became 
available. 

— end of page 4 — 

Table 1 . Summary of previous research on Caribbean-Florida contact 



Author 


Date" 


Issue* 


CnotactV 


Direction' 


Evidence 2 


Brinton 


1S71 


origins 


no 


FL-oOOFL 


linguistic 


Brooks 


1888 


origins 


yes 


C-+FL 


skeletal 


Holmes 


WM 


contact 


yes 


FL-+C/C >FL 


artifactuai 


Gushing 


me. 


contact 


yes 


C^FL 


historic accounts 


Fewkes 


19ft4 


contact 


yes 


FL-'C/C >FL 


artifacluaJ 


Fewkes 


1907 


contact 


yes 


FL-'C/OFL 


artifactuai 


Harrington 


1921 


origins 


yes 


FL >OC >FL 


artifactuai 


Gower 


1027 


origins 


no 


FL--C/C-»FL 


trait comparisons 


Lcrvdn 


1 M5 


origins 


yes 


FL-*C/C >FL 


trait comparisons 


Stirling 


1936 


contact 


possible, nol likely 


FL-^C/Ch-FL 


trait comparisons, 
art [factual 


Stone 


193? 


origins 


yes 


Ce-nt./S Amer. & 
Carib. 'FL 


artifactuai 


Rouse 


1940 


Contact 


possible 


FL-C 


ceramics 


Griffin 


1943 


contact 


possible 


eircum-Caribtiean 


ira it comparisons 


S1 ewaro: 


1948 


contact 


yes 


circuin-Caribbcan 


trait comparisons 


Goggin and 
Rouse 


194K 


contact 


probable 


C^FL 


axe 


Rouse 


11*51 


origins 


probable 


N. Amer. "C 


Ciboticy orientation 
towards land 


Howtlls 


1954 


contact 


possible 


C >FL 


arrival of 

Mississippiaii period 
(influences from the 
South) 


Cranberry 


IftSS 


l-:lHiI.!::1 


probably not 


FL >OC >FL 


ceramics 


Cranberry 


1957 


origins 


possible 


FL-C 


similarities of 
Ciboney culture to 
that of Floridian 
Cultures 


Rouse 


1958 


contact 


possible 


FL-*C/C-^FL 


burial customs, shell 
gouges, ceramics 


Sturtevant 


1960 


contact 


no 


FL >C/C 'FL/ 
circum-Caribbean 


trait comparison 


Roust 


1964 


contact 


not enough evidence 


FL-"C/C-*FL 


ceramics, shell 
gouges 


Ford 


1966 


origins 


yes 


C-*FL and GA 


ceramics 



-end of page 5- 



Table 1 . Continued 



Author 


Date" 


hsue ! 


Contact? 1 


Direction* 


Eviifcnss 1 


Hoffman 


i%l 


contact 


possible 


fi+c/c-fl 


geographic 
proximity 


Cnixeiil and 
Rausc 


)<■«■■< 


OH' 

guis/oo 

mart 


DD 


n*ac-*& 


artifatfuAl 


Gfaiikrry 


W) 


contact 


yes 


C 'Fl. 


linguistic 


Sullen 


Wl* 


contact 


possibly, not likely 


FL^C/OFL 


ceramics,. oiJtCT 
artifacts 


Sullen 


L'J7fi 


contact 


no 


FL-»OC -FL 


artifactuai 


Evans ami 
Meggers 


Y)% 


contact 


possible 


C. Aiticr^Oftw 


gulf stream flow 


Sara 


vr m 


origins 


v« 


S Amer.-K>FL 


agricultural practices 


CairjjidRitey 


m 


contact 


possible 


FL^C 


effigy bottle 


Rouse 


\m 


cwiact 


possible, ttoilikly 


FL-*C 


shell gouges 


MaKiLwudl 


\W 


contad 


possible, noi likely 


FL^aC-'FL 


agneuIliiriL 
linguistic: 


Kcegan 


198? 


ewtaa 


possible, not likely 


S. A«er*C »FL 


agricultural practices 


Lalhrtp 


1987 


origins 


probable 


S. Amer. H>FL 


agricultural practices 


iiegcJ 


i'.!'.| 


contact 


possible 


S Artser.-^C *FL 


agricultural practices 


Moure amide 
UCoUc 


m 


contact 


possible 


FL-»C 


gulf stream, 

geographic 

proximity 



1 date of publication 

2 indicates whether the topic being addressed by each author examines prehistoric contact 
or the origins of the peoples of the particular regions 

3 indicates the general opinion of each author on whether or not some level of interaction 
occurred between these areas. 

4 indicates the direction of movement examined by each author-FL=Florida, 
C=Caribbean, C. Amer.=Central America, S. Amer.=South America, N. Amer.=North 



America, arrows Indicate the direction of movement examined by the author. 

5 this generally indicates the type of evidence used, whether artifactual, geographic, or 

linguistic. For detailed descriptions of these data, the reader is directed to the original 

sources. 

More recent studies (Callaghan 1999; Elbow 1992; Rouse 1986; Wilson et al. 1998) have 
also examined the issue of Central American Caribbean contacts and migrations and 
suggest that the inhabitants of the Caribbean were capable ocean-going seafarers. 



Why Migrate? 

Several current hypotheses offer differing perspectives on motivations for migration in 
the prehistoric Bahamas. These are buttressed by older theories concerning motivations 
for prehistoric voyaging and information from the Pacific, which is also relevant to the 
present study. The information contained in Table 2 summarizes the publications dealing 
with the debate about the motivations for the colonization of the Bahamas. Although this 
paper is not specifically concerned with the initial colonization(s) of the Bahamian 
archipelago, the possible motivations for these colonization activities may be analogous 
to the motivations for possible Floridian contact. The majority of the papers outlined in 
Table 2 suggest "push/pull" motivators for colonization (as described by Lee 1966), most 
of which center around population densities 

— end of page 6 — 



Figure 1. Map of the Caribbean 




Scale Ik in I 



pushing people out and resource exploitation pulling people away. 



Keegan (1985, 1992: 1997) suggests that the total population of the Bahamian islands 
was at least 40.000 at the time of European contact. Additionally, he adds that the 
northernmost islands (Grand Bahama, Great Abaco, and Andros) had been settled for 
some time when Columbus arrived in A.D. 1492. Even though the population expansion 
could have eventually created an economic "need," such as those described above, for 
migration to a new locale (i.e., Florida), the timing of such a model (i.e., late in the 
prehistoric period) makes it questionable whether or not such a necessity would have 
arisen prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Irwin's (1990:92) economic models for 
migration in the Pacific offer a useful analogy. He argues, based on archaeological 
reconnaissance and the analysis of radiocarbon dates, that the major migration events in 
the Pacific took place at the times of the lowest population densities. While traditional 
economic models are valid for suggesting a push/pull migration pattern, stressful 
economic conditions are not a prerequisite to force migration under Irwin's (1990) 
interpretation. Thus, although the late arrival of peoples in the northernmost Bahamian 
islands (ca. A.D. 1200) makes economic factors questionable (i.e., could they have 
depleted their resources, necessitating a migration, in such a short amount of time?) for 
migration to Florida, alternative possibilities would have allowed for almost immediate 
exploration following the colonization of these islands, thereby increasing the time 
available before the arrival of the Europeans. Keegan and Diamond (1987) suggest that 
the motivation for island colonization differs from that of exploration, whereby the 
migrants continued to explore new, unknown areas of ocean because of the expectation of 
finding new land. Under such a model, the orientation of the islands of the Caribbean (see 



Figure 1) provide a linear track which could have directed settlers along the islands and 
ultimately towards Florida. This model is part of the theory of autocatalysis, which states 
basically that the idea of a return voyage was an expected component of exploration (i.e., 
explorers did not set out on voyages of no return). Irwin (1989:176) initially doubted the 
validity of this model, based primarily on problems unique to Oceania. He now agrees 
that this type of voyaging was likely the primary method employed in prehistory (Irwin 
1992). The remainder of this study attempts to determine whether the natural and 
technological factors present in the late prehistoric Bahamas were conducive to such 
contact. This author assumes (after Keegan 1992, 1997) that the northernmost Bahamian 
islands were settled at least 100 years prior to European contact: and that, based on most 
of the studies in Table 2. there were motivations for further colonization. What 

— end of page 7 — 



Figure 2 



These three vessels are after Callaghan (1999) and illustrate the types of Caribbean 
vessels discussed in the text ([a] the Florida Type-3 canoe [cf. Newsom and Purdy 1990]; 
[b] the Maya canoe; [c] the Warao canoe). 

I present here is an evaluation of the factors that could have impeded such migration. 



Watercraft in Prehistory 

The Caribbean 

Little primary evidence exists from the Caribbean on the appearance and design of 
prehistoric watercraft. Much of the knowledge of the prehistoric Caribbean is drawn from 
archaeological and historic contests of the surrounding areas (i.e., Maya area; Orinoco 
region; Florida) (Callaghan 1995, 1999). Only two archaeological examples of watercraft 
are known to exist from the Caribbean (one from Cuba and one from Andros Island in the 
Bahamas) (Callaghan and Schwabe 1999). Additionally, a brief description exists of a 
prehistoric canoe discovered in a Jamaican cave (Cundall 1894-5) and there is an 
unconfirmed report of one discovered in Trinidad (Callaghan, communication 1999). 

Several authors have examined Spanish Colonial evidence for clues as to the nature of 
watercraft in the Caribbean (Glazier 1991; Johnstone 1980: McKusick 1960; Sauer 
1966). Although historic accounts are sometimes conflicting on this topic, it is unlikely 



that the Pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Caribbean possessed sail technology (Glazier 
1991:152). McKusick (1960:5) states that vessels with sailing capabilities were recorded 
by most observers after A.D. 1650. He dismisses the presence of aboriginal sails by that 
late date as a result of European contact. While speculation still persists as to the presence 
or absence of sail technology, the majority of the evidence suggests that neither the Taino 
nor the Florida Indians possessed such technology prior to European contact (McKusick 
1960; Newsom and Purdy 1990). Although, there are reports of voyages between Florida 
and Cuba during the historic period (Hann 1991); these sources are not very helpful 
because it is impossible to know what influence the European technology and knowledge 
had on such voyages. 

Based upon the accounts of Columbus and his associates (see Sauer 1966) regarding the 
size of Caribbean dugout canoes, some sort of construction beyond simply hollowing a 
single tree trunk was necessary. The length of the vessel which held seventy to eighty 
persons, as described by Columbus (McKusick 1960:8; see also Wilbert 1977:18), was 
not likely constructed out of a single piece of timber. Johnstone (1980:235) suggests that 
the canoe lengths described by Columbus and by Bernaldez (McKusick 1960) must have 
been accomplished by lashing on planks. McKusick (1960:7) and Johnstone (1980:235) 
agree that the lashing of planks with fiber would suggest an aboriginal origin of this 
practice rather than an imitation of the Europeans (which would have implied the use of a 
nail-like device), and that such technology was present prior to European contact. 
McKusick (1960:4) states that plank technology would allow for a more seaworthy craft. 
Unfortunately, archaeological evidence for the interpretation of West Indian watercraft is 
lacking (Leshikar 1996:19), forcing scholars to speculate based on scant historical 
accounts. While the dugout was, undoubtedly, the primary type of watercraft in use by 
the native populations at the time of Spanish contact (Leshikar 1996:19; Johnstone 
1980:234), the specific design of dugout canoe is still unclear. Callaghan (1995, 1999) 
and Callaghan and Schwabe (1 999) have combined archaeological and documentary 
evidence from the Maya area, the Caribbean, the Orinoco region of South America, and 
Florida to reconstruct the appearance and seadaring capabilities of Caribbean watercraft. 
They conclude that the appearance of Taino canoes resembled the overhanging bow style 
canoe described by Newsom and Purdy (1990: 170-17 1) (see Figure 2). However, they 
note that a Lucayan canoe discovered in the Bahamas (Callaghan and Schwabe 1999) 
resembles vessels from the Orinoco region (e.g., Figure 2c). 

Evidence for the seacraft on the opposite side of the Straits of Florida is widely available, 
with a total of nearly 200 canoes known in existence from the waterways of Florida, 
spanning over 5,000 years (Newsom and Purdy 1990: 164). On the other hand, 
prehistoric contact from the North American mainland to the Bahamas is unlikely (as 
opposed to Bahamian-to-North American contact) due to adverse ocean currents and 
other factors. As with their Caribbean counterparts, the Floridian watercraft were 
dominated by dugout canoes, but these were mostly utilized for riverine transport. The 
early vessels were manufactured by hollowing tree trunks with fire, sometimes evidenced 
by a charred interior (Newsom and Purdy 1990:170). The overhanging bow style of the 
Type 3 examples of Newsom and Purdy (1990:170-171) closely resemble the Taino 
canoes described by Callaghan (1995: 184) (see Figure 2). 



In contrast to the Florida watercraft as described by Newsom and Purdy (1990) and 
Bullen and Brooks (1967), which were likely created for use in riverine environments, 
Callaghan (1999) and Callaghan and Schwabe (1999) note that the Caribbean vessels 
were designed for open ocean 

— end of page 8 — 



Table 2. Summary of theories regarding migrations in the Caribbean 



Author 


Date 1 


Origin 1 


Destination 


Motivation* 


Colonization 
Date 1 


PeBooy 


1912 


Hatii 


Bahamas (non-specific) 


fled Caribs 


c. A.D. 1400+- 


Gfa[ibsir> 


iwe 


Haiti 


Turks and Caicos 


not specified 


A.D. 800-900 


Hoffman 


1969 


Hispan Lola/Cuba 


Bahamas (non-specific) 


non-specific population 
movements 


A.D. 700-900 


Hoffman 


1970 


Hispanlola 


Bahamas {non-specific) 


non-specific population 
movements 


A.D. 700-900 


Sears and 
Sullivan 


197R 


Hisparriola/Cuba 


Turks and Caicos 


push/pull economic 
model: overpopulation, 

conch, and salt 


A.D. 750-900 


Sullivan 


1980 


llispan tola/Cuba 


Turks and Caicos 


push/pull economic 
model: overpopulation, 
conch, and salt 


A.D. 750-900 


Sullivan 


1981 


Illspaniola/Cuba 


Turks and Caicos 


push/pull economic 
model: overpopulation, 
conch, and salt 


A.D. 750-900 


Rose 


i m 


Haiti and Cuba 


Caioos/Cenlral Islands 


Greater Antilles 
(unspecified) 


A.D. S00-9OO 


Rouse 


1982 


west Haiti or 
east Cuba 


Bahamas (non-specific) 


external factors, 
internal resource 
exploitation, 
population growth 


AD 800- 
1200 


Kccgan 


1985 


Hispamola and 
Haiti 


Great Inagua 


push/pull factors, 
population growth 


A.D. 600-800 


Winter et al . 


[985 


north central 
Hispaniola/Cuba 


Turks and Caicos 


island propinquity,, 
flamingo migrations, 
availability of 
uncxploited resources 


AJ> 90O 


Rouse. 


1986 


west Haiti or 
cast Cuba 


Bahamas (non-specific) 


external factors, 
internal resource 
exploitation, 

population growth 


A.D. 800- 



navigation, the width of the Caribbean vessels, which exceeds that of the Floridian 
seacraft would have provided added stabilization on the open ocean. The Caribbean 
canoes are also thought to have been more maneuverable than their Floridian counterparts 
(Callaghan 1999: 15). 



The Pacific 

Numerous experimental voyages employing prehistoric vessel and navigation technology 
have been accomplished in the Pacific area (e.g. Finney 1997, 1988; Finney et al. 1986, 
1989; Gladwin, 1970; Lewis 1972) these studies, as well as larger studies of Pacific 
seafaring are relevant for comparative study with other island archipelagoes (Keegan 
1993: 246), including the Caribbean. 

Doran(1981) describes several types of vessel form the Pacific area; bark boats, rafts, 
dugouts, double-outrigger canoes. The majority 

— end of page 9 — 



Table 2. continued 



Author 


Date 1 


Origin* 


Destination 3 


Motivation' 


Colunization 
Date* 


k- ■■.•j-iii and 
Diamond 


I9S7 


Hispamola and 

Haiti 


Great Inagua 


auloca&lysis 


A.D. 600-800 


l .■- :' n: 


1987 


Hispaniola and 
Haiti 


Great Inagua 


not specified 


AD 600-700 


Keegan 


1988 


Haiti 


Great Inagua 


push/pnli 


C. A.D. 600 


Bermanand 
Gnrvccki 


1991 


I.Cuba 

2. HispariioJa 


1 . Central Bahamas 

2, Turks and Caicos 


pull factor, new islands 
favorable to root crop 
cultivation 


1, A.D. 600- 

soo 

2. A.D. 900+ 


Graiiherry 


1991 


northeast Cuba 


Great Inagua 


not specified 


A.D. 800-900 


Keegan 


1992 


Hispaniola and 
Haiti 


Great hiatus 


pusli/pull factors, 
population growl h 


A.D, 600-800 


Rouse 


1992 


west Haiti or 
east Cuba 


Bahamas ^non-specific) 


cxlcrnal faclors, 
internal resource 
exploitation, 
population growth 


A.D. 80O- 
1200 


Kccgan 


1993 


Hispaniola and 
Haiti 


Great Inagua 


pusli/pull factors, 
population growth 


A.D. 600-SOO 


I --. : -i ii and 

Gnrvccki 


1995 


Cuba 


Central Bahamas 


push factor out of 
Cuba, pull of 

unoccupied mesic 
islands, case of 
transport 


A.D. 600-900 


Kccgan 


1995 


Hispaniola 


Bahamas (non-specific) 


push/pull 


c. A.D. 600 



1 date of publication 

2 place of origin suggested by author 

3 place of destination suggested by author 

4 motivations for migration suggested by author 

5 suggested dates for initial colonization events by author 

of these vessels, such as single and double-outrigger canoes, were sailing vessels and not 
comparable to the Caribbean watercraft. However: bark boats and rafts may very well 
have been used in prehistoric Caribbean (cf., Nicholson 197a), however these types of 
vessels would have become waterlogged quickly and would not have been useful in open 
ocean voyaging (Doran 1981; Nicholson 197a). the Pacific dugouts are probably the most 
closely analogous vessels to those used in the prehistoric Caribbean for interisland 
voyaging. 



Ocean currents 



With little evidence for the construction of watercraft is available for the West Indies, 
various authors (Callaghan 1995: Johnstone 1980; McKusick 1960) contend that the 
Taino probably possessed the technology for long distance ocean travel. Whether they 
were able to reach the North American mainland is, therefore, an issue of environmental 
factors, assuming that the technology existed. 

Most of the gaps between the islands in the archipelagoes of the West Indies are short 
enough to see the next island or intermediate keys (Keegan 1992:25-6). The currents 
between these islands and keys remain at a consistent calm level throughout most of the 
Caribbean. On the other hand, the distances between the Bahamian islands and Florida 
(the closest North American landmass) are as long as the longest 

— end of page 10 — 



Figure 3 




Map of the showing the major ocean currents as they move through the Caribbean. The 
Florida Current moves to the west of the Greater Antilles and then continues between 
Florida and Cuba and then joins the Antilles Current as it passes through the Straits of 
Florida. 



water gaps between the West Indian islands (see Table 3). Additionally, no keys lie 
between the Bahamian Islands and the mainland. Another mitigating factor with regard to 
the possibility of Caribbean contact with Florida is the Florida Current (a portion of the 
Gulf Stream), which, as Bullen (1974: 158) contends, constituted a barrier for cultural 
diffusion. The Gulf Stream begins south of the Gulf of Mexico in the Yucatan Channel 
(see Figure 3). The wind patterns of the globe directly reflect on the motions of the 
surface ocean currents (Davis 1977:94), and the Gulf Stream is created by a westerly drag 
of winds caused by the rotation of the earth and a thermohaline return flow from the 
South Atlantic (Chave ct all 997; Gaskell 1973; Schmitz and Richardson 1991). The 
thermohaline flow is a deep-ocean, density-driven circulation created by a combination of 
factors. This circulation is caused partly by convection of warm, salty water as it reaches 
the poles and cools. As the salty water cools, its buoyancy decreases, and the water sinks 
Secondly, brine rejection also causes water to sink as freezing water "rejects" salt and 
increases the density of non-freezing waters. This process occurs continuously (with 
seasonal variations) with density differences "pushing" large amounts of water around 
the deep oceans (Cronin 1999:27). The winds which help push the current from above, 
are the result of the Coriolis effect, which is a deflection of moving particles, in this case 
air, to the right in the Northern Hemisphere, creating a clockwise circulation around the 
subtropical high in the Atlantic. The Coriolis effect is due to the eastward rotation of the 
Earth (Davis 1977; Wells 1998). By the time the currents pass through the Straits of 
Florida they are much like a river 64 km wide and 6 10 m deep flowing out of the Gulf of 
Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
[NOAA] 1985). This is corroborated by Gaskell(1973: 13) and Sanford (1982:621) The 
Straits of Florida are a deep channel between the Florida peninsula and the Bahama 
Banks. The topography of the ocean floor in the Straits resembles a canyon that drops 
steeply from the small continental shelf off the Atlantic Coast of Florida to a depth of as 
much as approximately 780 m before steeply rising again on the Bahamian side of the 
channel (Defense Mapping Agency [DMA] 1996). This 'wall of water' separating the 
West Indies and Florida passes between Cuba and the Bahamian archipelago to the south 
and the Florida peninsula to the north (NOAA 1985:Fi 

g. 1). Iselin (1936) and Fofonoff (1981) define the Florida Current as all northward- 
moving waters with velocities exceeding 10 cm s-' (1 m per second) which begin in a line 
south of the Tortugas and extend past Cape Hatteras where the current moves off the 

— end of page 11 — 



Table 3. Distances between Bahamian Islands and the North American 
mainland (After Keegan 1985: 26) 



Origin 


DtstinLiticin 


Distance (km) 


Great Inagua 


Mayaguana 


90 


Great Jnagua 


Acid ins Island 


120 


Grand Bahama 


Florida (Palm Beach) 


ton 


Caicos Islands 


Dominican Republic 


150 


Great Inagua 


Haiti 


90 


Great Esuma 


Cuba 


2(50 



continental shelf. The water travels through the Straits of Florida with an average velocity 
of 8 km/h, "discharging 100 billion tons of water per hour" (NOAA 1985:1). Certainly, 
this natural phenomenon presents the most significant barrier to Floridian-Caribbean 
contact. 

Historic sources also report on the strength of the current through the Straits of Florida 
and the difficulty of sailing through it. The Florida Current was reported by Antonio de 
Herrera y Tordesillas as observed during Ponce de Leon's 1513 voyage. "A current was 
observed which, though they had a good wind, they could not stem" (NOAA 1985:2). 
Another account from McKinnen (1804:268-9) states that the progress of his party from 
Grand Bahama along the Florida coast was "rapid." He also comments that he knows of 
no other area where the navigation of the ocean is more difficult than along the south 
shores of Florida. "So very fallacious and irresistible are the cross currents and eddies, 
that it often happens whilst vessels are steering in one course they are carried nearly in an 
opposite direction" (McKimen 1804:269). Indeed, the current was strong enough that 
McKinnen (1804:270) states that from their departure from Grand Bahama, the Florida 
Current carried his party to the area of Charleston, SC, in a "short time." The logical 
question now is, to what degree would this 'river in the ocean' have actually influenced 
the travels of aboriginal Caribbeans? 



Although the previous sources give some insight into the nature of historic seafaring in 
the Gulf Stream, the question remains whether the Florida Current helped or hindered 
individuals attempting to cross the Straits of Florida prehistorically. Oceanographic 
investigation is of the velocity and transport of the current through the Straits of Florida 
may shed some light on this question. Fofonoff (1981:139) states that "the Florida 
Current emerges as the part of the Gulf Stream that is best documented, analyzed, and 
understood" (see also Schmitz and McCartney 1993). Sanford (1 982:636-7) states that 
the measurements of seasonal fluctuations and amplitude of the Florida Current are in 
agreement whether using measurements 

of surface flow or subsurface measures of transport. This suggests that such factors as 
seasonal variation and fluctuation of the flow through the Straits of Florida, which are 
normally observed through deep water detection instruments (see Molinari et al. 1985; 
Schott et at. 1988). are analogous to the surface conditions throughout the year [cf., 



Molinari and Leaman (1987) and the DMA (1994)1. Surface conditions are of importance 
to the issue of prehistoric travel because these conditions are the realities that native 
seafarers confronted. 

The advantage to examining the transport volume of the Florida Current (rather than the 
actual surface currents) is twofold: There is more oceanographic literature available on 
transport volume; and transport volume is more easily linked to weather patterns and 
changes in sea-level, an important consideration in archaeology. 

Data from recent investigations at various depths into the physical properties of the 
Florida Current provide insight into prehistoric conditions. Niiler and Richardson (1973) 
determined the mean transport of the Florida Current to be 30xl06m3sl. This figure, 
which translates to an overall transport of thirty trillion cubic meters of water per 
decisecond (tenth of a second) and is referred to as 30 Sv (Sverdrups); measures the total 
transport of a fluid through a confined passage. Such a figure is derived from repetitive 
vertical profiles of the velocity from the surface to the ocean bottom where each 
measurement at differing depths is standardized by a constant velocity (Wells 1998:220). 
While the transport is not a measure of the speed of the current, this research provides 
clues to the seasonal variability of the current, as well as other phenomena. 

Niiler and Richardson (1973: 144) suggest an annual cycle deviation of 30 Sv fron the 
mean of 30 Sv through the Straits of Florida at the point or their investigations (a line 
between Miami and Bimini). While others have reported different amounts of transport 
through the Straits (e.g. x=32 Sv by Larsen 1992; x=30 Sv Schmitz and McCartney 1993; 
n=30.5 Sv by Schott et al. 1988; x=27.71 Sv by Welsh 1996), this is likely due to the 
various locations from which the observations were made. Additionally, none differed 
significantly from the 30 Sv mean transport reported by Niiler and Richardson (1973). 
The seasonal variation originally identified by Niiler 

—end of page 12— 



Figure 4 




MOLINARI 

AUGUSTINE 

BAHAMA 

MIAMI 



MONTH 



This graph illustrates the general trends of the flow of the Florida Current as discussed in 
the text. The sources, including surface flow data from the Atlas of Pilot Charts (Defense 
Mapping Agency 1994) and Molinari and Leaman (1987), show a clear minimum of flow 
speed around the months of October to December each year. The Molinari and Leaman 
data are referred to on the graph as "Molinari." The Defense Mapping Agency data are 
denoted by the closest land locations to the points where the data were derived from the 
adjacent Florida Current on the maps (i.e., Augustine=St. Augustine; Bahama=West End, 
Grand Bahama Island; Miami=Miami). 

and Richardson (1973) may provide a basis for interpreting the ideal time of the year for 
the occurrence of Bahamas to Florida travel. Numerous authors Gee et al. 1985; Schott 
and Zantopp 1985: Schott ct al. 1988) have documented a significant annual drop in the 
transport, and by inference a decrease in the speed of the flow (Molinari and Leaman 
1987). of the Florida Current around the months of October and November (see Figure 
4). Schott et al. (1988: 1212) report an early winter low around 20 Sv, while Schott and 
Zantopp (1985:308) report an early winter low of 25.4 Sv. This winter low could have 
equated to less treacherous traveling conditions for prehistoric peoples (see also Sleight 
1965:228). However, a mid-summer high in transport volume and surface current 
strength, which possibly constituting more treacherous conditions, may have been 
exploited to push the Lucayans along the Florida Atlantic coastline. Under such a model, 
the winter low could have been employed for decreased resistance for return voyages to 
the Bahamas. The extent to which the motion of the Florida Current affected the 
possibility of prehistoric contact between the Bahamas and Florida may be inferred from 
the following study. 

Horvath and Finney (1976) conducted a series of paddling experiments specifically 
targeting the issue of human endurance and capability in prehistoric Pacific travel off the 



California coast and in the waters near the Hawaiian islands. Although these tests were 
carried out for use in studies of Pacific travel, the sail-less canoe and crew size likely 
approximates that of the small Caribbean vessels discussed in the historic sources. The 
vessel of the Horvath and Finney (1976:48) experiments was 12.2 m in length and carried 
a crew of twelve men of varying paddling experience. Horvath and Finney (1976:49) 
found that the realistic maintainable speed of the paddlers was 4 knots (kts) (7.4 km/h) . 
This rate of travel is insufficient to paddle 'upstream' against the stronger flow of the Gulf 
Stream (which may be up to 5.5 kts). Maul et al. (1991) show that the surface speeds of 
the Florida Current are much stronger (up to 5.5 knots) near the Florida coast than for the 
rest of the current (which ranges from 1.2 to 3.3 knots, on average). The fatigue of the 52 
nautical mile (nmi) (96.3 km) experimental journey took a significant toll on the test 
subjects. The men lost a considerable amount of body weight even though food and water 
were readily available in the vessel. While the subjective observations of the test subjects 
were that, given sufficient rest, food, and water, they could keep up the trek for several 
consecutive days. Horvath and Finney (1976:53) state that the material needs of the 

—end of page 13 — 

travelers would necessitate a large vessel. Horvath and Finney (1976:54) comment that 
the results of this study suggest that "a crew of physically fit and experienced paddlers" 
could paddle a canoe more than 50 nmi (92.5 km) in two days, a distance extremely close 
to that between Grand Bahama and Palm Beach, Florida (approximately 100 kin). 
However, travelers leaving from Grand Bahama may have had an easier time of paddling 
than Horvath and Finney 's (1976) test subjects, as they would have the pushing 
assistance of the Florida Current. Conversely, individuals departing from Florida, as per 
the results of Horvath and Finney (1976), would likely be incapable of sustaining the 
necessary speed to stem the Florida Current down its axis. The results of Horvath and 
Finney's (1 976) experiments seem to make the possibility of contact between Florida and 
the Bahamas unlikely due to the strength of the Florida Current, but not contact from the 
Bahamas to Florida. The strength of the current as it moves up the Atlantic coast equals 
or exceeds (depending on the season) the maximum sustainable speeds of the paddlers in 
the Horvath and Finney (1976) study. 

In addition to the Horvath and Finney (1976) experimental study, some information can 
be extracted from Blanchard's (1 999) study on near shore voyaging. Blanchard states that 
vessels with a crew of two or more would have been hard pressed to paddle into winds in 
excess of twelve knots. Such a factor would be a consideration for return voyages against 
the Florida Current (even without adverse winds, Blanchard's 1999 study supports the 
difficulty of paddling against strong current). 

The Florida Current makes for a difficult situation when considering return voyages of 
the Lucayans or voyages of Florida Indians to the Bahamas. The strength of this current 
likely constituted a considerable hindrance to such movements (as demonstrated above). 
However. Irwin (1992) argues against voyages of no return. He states that death or the 
possibility of not returning from excursions would have been significant deterrents to 
prehistoric voyagers. I argue that the oceanic-oriented Lucayans may have been able to 



negotiate the strong currents in the Straits of Florida using large crews and exploiting the 
variations in the surface currents and winds across the Straits. Such a strategy may have 
included riding the Florida Current northward and paddling in a northeasterly direction to 
stem the near-shore currents (the strongest in the Straits) and then turning in a 
southeasterly direction and paddling against the weaker (1.2-3.3 kt) eastern margin of the 
Florida Current for the remainder of the return voyage. The smaller canoes from Florida 
(Newsom and Purdp 1993) probably did not have the capacity for large enough crews to 
overcome the current. This contention returns to the earlier mentioned dichotomy of 
riverine versus oceanic orientations of seafaring capabilities. While the Lucayan Taino 
were likely accustomed to the conditions of operating a craft on the open ocean, due to 
centuries of experience from interisland trading and other types of ocean-going travel, the 
Floridian groups were more likely suited to riverine, marsh, and near-shore aqueous 
environments. The differences in the skills necessary to negotiate these divergent 
environments suggests that, out of necessity, the Lucayans, with their oceanic knowledge, 
would be the more likely initiates of contact across the treacherous Florida Current than 
their riverine focused Floridian counterparts. 

If prehistoric voyagers had departed the northern Bahamian islands in search of land to 
the north, it is probable that they were not able to cross the Florida Current directly to 
southern Florida, but rather that they would have been swept up in the current and 
dragged along the east coast of Florida. In any case, the natural direction of exploration 
from the Bahamas would likely be in a northwesterly direction due to the roughly 
northwest-southeast orientation of that island archipelago. This orientation of the 
Bahamian archipelago might have suggested to the prehistoric Lucayans that more 
uninhabited islands were located to the northwest of the northernmost Bahamian islands. 
Rather than contact between the inhabitants of southern Florida such as the Calusa or the 
Tequesta, it seems more probable that if any contact was made between the Lucayans and 
the North American aborigines it would have begun further north, perhaps in the areas of 
the Jeaga (Palm Beach County) or Ais (St. Lucie, Indian River, and Brevard Counties) or 
the Timucua of the St. Johns River and present day St. Augustine and Jacksonville: or 
possibly along the coasts of Georgia or South Carolina. 



Wind Patterns in the Straits of Florida and Surrounding Areas 

Although the sail-less canoes, which are believed to be the most common mode of long- 
distance transportation in the pre-Columbian Bahamas, would not typically be in danger 
of adverse sailing conditions created by strongwinds, winds of 12 knots or stronger may 
still have presented difficulty for small crews attempting to paddle a sail-less canoe 
(Blanchard 1999). Wind strengths reported on maps from the DMA (1994) were 
compared against Blanchard's (1999) benchmark of 12 kts as difficult rowing conditions. 
This benchmark (12 kts) falls within the force 4 strength winds on the Beaufort Scale of 
Wind Strength. The Beaufort Scale, divided into 12 "forces" ranging from callll to 
hurricane strength conditions (Rousmaniere 1989:132), is the standard measure used to 
present average wind strengths on the DMA maps (1994). The majority of the wind 



strengths in the area of the Straits of Florida (including the Floridian East Coast and the 
Northern Bahamian islands) arc reported to average Beaufort Scale force 4(1 1-16 kts) 
year-round. Because wind strength in the Straits is relatively constant, direction is a more 
important factor. 

For travel to have occurred from the Bahamas to Florida, low frequencies of winds from 
the North (Southerly winds) and the West (Easterly winds) would have been favorable. 
The mid-summer months (June/July) exhibit the best such conditions. Although the 
winds from the North are low in frequency during the mid-summer, this is the time at 
which the Florida Current is at its strongest (and the Straits most treacherous for 
watercraft). However, the Lucayans may have chosen to exploit this extra push from the 
Florida Current during the summer months: coupled with the reduced fre- 

— end of page 14— 

quency of resistance from Southerly winds to propel them from the northernmost 
Bahamas to the United States mainland. If such a strategy were employed, the Lucayans 
could have exploited the reduced flow of the Florida Current and the increased frequency 
of Southerly winds during the months of October or November to accomplish the return 
voyages to the Bahamas (a necessary component of autocatalytic voyaging suggested by 
Twin 1992). One factor which would aid Bahamas to Florida voyages and hinder Florida 
to Bahamas voyages are the Prevailing Westerlies, i.e., the high frequencies of westward 
blowing trade winds which are common in the Caribbean. Such winds, if sustained and 
powerful (12+ kts), might push travelers in the Florida Current towards the Florida 
mainland. The frequency of these winds in the Straits of Florida are highly variable and 
although they are not at the peak of their occurrence in October or November (during the 
Florida Current calms), a moderate frequency of these winds exceed 1 1 kts (Beaufort 
Scale force 4 to 5) at this time (DMA 1994). Such conditions might have significantly 
hampered efforts for Florida to Bahamas voyaging or return voyages for Lucayans who 
had landed in Florida. 



Sea-Level Change and the Flow of the Florida Current 

The importance of the sea-level stand on both sides of the Straits of Florida to the current 
issue is twofold: increases in the sea-level may obscure coastal sites that yield evidence 
of contact and the sea-level has a direct correlation to the transport volume through the 
Straits Therefore, a clear understanding of the late prehistoric sea-level stands in the 
northern Bahamas and along the Florida Atlantic coast should lead to a clearer picture of 
site locations and the natural barriers to contact. Although rising sea-levels over the past 
12,000 years haw been demonstrated to obscure archaeological sites on the Gulf Coast of 
Florida (see Dorsey 1997) a widespread inundation of sites on the Atlantic coast of 
Florida is highly unlikely due lo the morphological differences of the continental shelf on 
either side of the Flondan peninsula. As was stated earlier the Straits of Flonda constitute 
a steep drop in the depth of the ocean floor not far from the visible coastline of Florida on 



the Atlantic side of the peninsula (see Figure5 ) Therefore the amount of land when 
compared to the Gulf side of the peninsula, which has been inundated over the past 1000 
years (the reasonable earliest date of possible contact) is probably negligible. This is not, 
however, meant to undermine the importance of such sea-level studies of the Atlantic 
coast. Rather it is a generalization which may be oversimplified for a few individual 
areas, as there are some submerged sites off of the Atlantic Coast of Florida (e.g., 
8SL17), however, they are too early to be relevant to the contact issue. 

Watters (1981; 1992) advocates the examination of episodic sea-level fluctuations for the 
purposes of identifying and interpreting submerged sites, especially in the Caribbean. 
Mitchell and Keegan (1987), however, do not find evidence that significant numbers of 
sites are obscured by sea-level changes in the Bahamas. They state that evidence from 
coastline studies suggest a change in sea-level in the Bahamas with 50cm of the present 
sea-level stand for the past 1400 years Valdes (1994, 1996) also supports the unlikely 
probability for the sea-level changes worldwide to have affected the identification of sites 
in the Bahamas. 

In recent years, archaeologists hale focused on sea-level changes on the Gulf Coast of 
Florida (see Dorsey 1997, Walker et al 1994, 1995) as have other scholars in the 
Bahamas (see Valdes 1994, 1996). These studies demonstrate that the familiar Holocene 
model for a smooth, constant sea-level rise over the past 12,000 years (e.g. 
Fairbridgel974, 1984) is an average curve which may obscure certain details important to 
archaeologists, but not necessarily relevant to the geologists who created the model 
(Walker et al. 1994: 161). Such nuances, which may have been overlooked in the 
Holocene model, may also play a significant role in the issue of Bahamian-Floridian 
contact; they may obscure minor fluctuations in sea-levels that could have influenced the 
transport of the Florida Current. 

Maul et al. (1985) report a linear correlation (r2=0.93, qo=0.05 for Jupiter; r2=0.74, 
oo=0.05 for Miami; r2=0.94, qo=0.05 between Jupiter and the Bahamas) between minute 
sea-level fluctuations and the transport of the Florida Current. The statistical results 
reported above are from regression tests which examine the relationship of the transport 
volume of the Florida Current to the sea-level stand at the time of measurement. These 
data show a strong correlation between sea-level and transport volume (the closer the r2 
statistic is to 1.0 the more one variable explains the other) (Maul et al. 1985). So, in this 
case sea-level changes can account for 93%, 74%, and 94% respectively for each of the 
three locations measured at the 95% confidence level (oo=0.05). Maul et al. (1985.307) 
suggest that the overall transport of the Florida Current can be inferred from 
measurements of sea-level with an error of only + 1 x 106m3s (less than lSv). Thus, as 
the sea-levels drop, so do the transport volume and the surface speeds. 

Episodic sea-level fluctuation is considered for the Gulf Coast of Florida by Colquhoun 
et al. (1995). Walker et al. (1994), and Walker et al. (1995), and may hold some 
significance for the Florida Current. Several investigators (Alexander 1974; Fairbridge 
1974, 1984: Robbin 1984) have noted a general trend of increase in sea-levels during the 
most recent part of the Holocene (c. 6.000 B.P. to present) in southern Florida. Although 



not a constant increas,. Robbin (1984:441) notes that the sea-level stand has never been 
higher than present during the Holocene. This increase, noted as +1.2 mm/yr from 7,000- 
2,000 years B.P. and +0.3 mm/yr from 2,000 B.P.- present by Robbin (1984:437) (a trend 
generally agreed upon by Fairbridge 1984:431), may have resulted in lower transport 
means on the other side of the peninsula, and presumably somewhat easier traveling 
conditions for the Pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas (also suggested by 
Nicholson 1976b for the rest of the Caribbean). 

Discussion 

Unfortunately, no universally accepted diagnostic remains or other archaeological 
evidence has been found that links the 

—end of page 15— 



Figure 5 



North Atlantic Ocean 



Little 

Bahama 

Bank 




This map (after NOAA 1998) illustrates the basic topography of the area around the 
Straits of Florida. The shaded areas indicate the shallower continental shelves. The 
numbers indicate depth soundings (in meters) in the Straits of Florida. The large arrows 
indicate the general flow of the Florida Current through the Straits of Florida. 

prehistoric inhabitants of the Bahamas to those of Florida and the rest of the North 
American mainland. In the absence of such incontrovertible evidence. I will summarize 
my main points. 



It can be stated with reasonable certainty that the indigenous populations of the 
Caribbean (the Lucayan Taino in particular) inhabited the northernmost islands of the 
Bahamas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492. Many of the 

—end of page 16— 

scholars examining motivations for migration and colonization in the Bahamas argue for 
push/pull motivators. Such an approach likely necessitates long lapses of time for 
resource depletion and/or population growth to force migration. If the Lucayans had 
arrived very late in the prehistoric period to the northernmost Bahamian islands, such a 
push/pull perspective, if true, would probably negate the possibility of migration attempts 
to North America. Simply, there just would not have been enough time for the push/pull 
factors to impel a migration before the arrival of Columbus. However, under these 
models the possibility of contact is not ruled out entirely. Keegan (1985) suggests that 
exploration parties likely voyaged from the home island in advance of push/pull factors 
necessitating the search for new land. These exploratory expeditions may have reached 
the North American mainland in search or new lands prior to the arrival of the Europeans 
or the onset of demographic and or economic need for such knowledge. 

Other scholars (Irwin 1992; Keegan and Diamond 1987) suggest that although push/pull 
factors may have existed, such consequences were not necessary to initiate migrations. 
With the northernmost Bahamas inhabited prior to the arrival of Europeans, the North 
American mainland was ripe for exploration with the Bahamas as a staging point. The 
migration theories concerning insular populations suggest that, even under the restrictive 
push/pull models, the potential existed for at least exploration (if not colonization) in a 
northerly direction prior to European contact. 

If contact occurred, it may have simply been too late in the prehistoric period for colonies 
to be established (due to decimation of the native populations by the Europeans). This 
possibility, coupled with the established indigenous populations in Florida, a problem not 
likely encountered in newly found lands in the Bahamas, may have constituted a 
considerable deterrent to permanent settlement. 

Although not identical in design, similar watercraft from Pacific contexts, as well as 
computer simulations of prehistoric voyages from the Pacific (Irwin 1992; Irwin et al. 
1990; Levison et al. 1973) and the Caribbean (Callaghan 1999) support the seaworthiness 
of the Caribbean watercraft. The study by Horvath and Finney (1976) also suggests that 
human paddlers could have endured the conditions necessary to cross the Straits of 
Florida from the Bahamas to the United States mainland. 

In contrast to earlier studies (e.g. Sharp 1964), it is probable that the aboriginal 
inhabitants of the Caribbean (like those of the Pacific) had an intimate understanding of 
the natural clues to way-finding on the open ocean. As previously stated, based on the 
work of Horvath and Finney (1976), the flow of the Florida Current (when considering 
northward travel) was manageable all year, with the months of October- November the 
least treacherous for navigating the Florida Current due to the reduced flows. 



Additionally, the Atlantic cyclone season begins to slow down during the late Fall. 
Active cyclone seasons could have enhanced the danger of navigating the Florida Current 
during the mid-summer months, even though, in general, wind conditions were more 
favorable during this period. 

The archaeological evidence is minimal for contact between the Bahamas and the North 
American mainland Why, then, if such contact was likely, based on technology and 
environment, is there such a dearth of archaeological evidence? Based on the flow of the 
Florida Current, those looking for evidence of contact may be looking in the wrong place. 
It is unlikely that the Lucayans would have been able to cross the Florida Current at a 90 
degree angle to the flow, or even close to that trajectory. This fact alone rules out much 
of southern Florida as a possible landing location. It is likely if such contact did occur, 
that the Florida Current would have pushed the Lucayans along the coast for some 
distance. I suggest that possible landing points for such voyages would not begin until the 
Melbourne/Cape Canaveral area (which would help explain the Antillean axe head 
reported near Gainesville by Goggin and Rouse 1948). Historic accounts of sailings from 
the Bahamas also support this location as a likely destination in Florida. Additionally, 
while it would seem likely that ceramic vessels would have been employed to transport 
foodstuffs on long voyages, it is also likely that they served the same purpose on return 
voyages. Therefore, I do not suggest ceramic technologies as the best method for 
identifying Bahamian/Floridian contact. In order to identify considerable ceramic 
samples in the archaeological record, more long term contacts, rather than sporadic 
encounters, are necessary, and such sustained contact is unlikely. I suggest that small, 
portable trade items may hold the artifactual key to interpreting prehistoric contact. Items 
such as trade beads, pendants, or small zemis may be logical diagnostic items to be 
looking for along the southeastern United States Atlantic coast. Small items (pendants), 
collected by De Booy, are described in such a context on Bimini by Granberry 
(1957:380). Although these items do not support the possibility of Floridian/Bahamian 
contact, they do demonstrate the probable remains of brief visitations: small, portable 
objects. Instances of the difficulty in identifying brief visitations and contacts in the 
archaeological record are demonstrated by Milanich (1995) with respect to early Spanish 
forays into Florida. Milanich (1995: 110) suggests that, "because of the short duration of 
both [of Ponce de Leon's excursions], it is unlikely that the exact location of his landings 
will ever be pinpointed." Graves and Addison (1995:388) also outline similar difficulties 
of identifying such brief visitations in the Hawaiian archaeological record. 

Migration and colonization studies of the Bahamas suggest a late arrival of Lucayans in 
the Northern Bahamian islands: which would have led to a very late arrival in prehistory 
of Lucayans in Florida (if such contact occurred at all), a factor which may not be 
conducive to the establishment of permanent settlements. Additionally, indigenous 
groups were already established all along the eastern seaboard in the United States, a 
contingency not likely experienced by the Lucayans in other new areas in the Bahamas. If 
contact did occur, what were the ramifications of the meeting of these two cultures? It is 
possible that Florida Indians met the Lucayans with hostility, effectively restricting the 
establishment of permanent settlements. 



— end of page 17 — 

In conclusion, based on the combined evidence presented in this paper, it is my 
contention that contact was technologically possible between the prehistoric populations 
of the Bahamas and the indigenous peoples of North America. Environmentally, the 
conditions presented by the Florida Current and the winds in the Straits of Florida would 
have presented the Lucayans with a situation to which they may not have been 
accustomed. Having examined the available evidence from the Caribbean and the Pacific, 
I am confident that contact (at least in an ephemeral sense) was likely. However, the 
lateness of this possible contact resulted in a lack of transfer of significant cultural 
influences. If such contact did occur, it was likely north of the presently assumed area of 
southern Florida. However, until diagnostic cultural materials arc recovered from the 
United States to substantiate these hypotheses, such studies remain speculative. 



Acknowledgments 

I would like to thank Paul Farnsworth, Dydia DeLyser, Keith Henderson, Robert Austin, 
Nan Walker, and my anonymous reviewers for their assistance in refining this paper in 
both content and composition. I would also like to extend my gratitude to William 
Keegan, William Marquardt, Elizabeth Wing, Richard Callaghan, Thomas Lee, Harrison 
Prosper, Glen Doran, Rochelle Marrinan, Curtis Wienker, James Dunbar, Tanya Peres, 
Gracelyn Cassell and David Watters (the latter two for the Cundall article) for providing 
a wealth of information early on in this project which helped immensely to shape the 
argument. Additionally, thanks to Jennifer Duhamel, Noah Rost, Jennifer Speights-Binet, 
Elizabeth Fraser, Laurel Person, Steven Rainey, and Meg Streiff who read and 
commented on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Beth Bassett and Christopher Lee also 
provided insightful information and commentary during the course of this project. Thanks 
to Michael and Diane Seidemann who provided moral and financial support during the 
course of this project, Thanks also to my wife, Ericka, who provided both intellectual 
commentary and moral support during the writing of this manuscript. 



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Author 

Ryan M. Seidemann 



Paul M. Hebert Law Center 

Louisiana State University 

Baton Rouge 

LA70803 

USA 

Related research by Ryan Seidemann appears in a recently published collection: 
Seidemann, Ryan M. (2005) Pre-Columbian Caribbean Voyaging: Historic, 
Archaeological, and Experimental Evidence, in The William G. (Bill) Haag Honorary 
Symposium, Paul Farnsworth, Charles H. McNutt, and Stephen Williams, eds., pp. 148- 
164 (The University of Memphis Anthropological Research Center, Occasional Paper 
No. 26). 

Citation 

Please cite this article as follows: 

Seidemann, Ryan. (2006). The Bahamian Problem in Florida Archaeology: 
Oceanographic Perspectives on the Issue of Pre-Columbian Contact. KACIKE: The 
Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology [On-line Journal]. Available 
at: http://kacikejournal.wordpress.com/seidemann [Date of access: Day, Month, Year]. 

Or, use the original citation at the top of this page. 

© 2006. Ryan Seidemann. All rights reserved.